Out in force for Christmas In April
Volunteers make repairs, additions to county homes
Many families in Charles County felt like they walked into a brand new home on Christmas in April Day, after years of struggling to upkeep their aged homes. More than 500 Christmas in April Charles County volunteers helped build and repair more than 20 locations on April 29.
“We don’t want to turn any homeowners down so we work to complete as many of these projects as we can,” said Alvin Stewart, president of the Christmas in April Charles County board of directors. “We’re not just a governing board; we are a working board.”
“It makes me feel good to see so many people come out in the community to help families,” said Charles County Commissioners’ Vice President Amanda M. Stewart (D). “It makes me feel good to know that they have people in the community that care about our neighbors. It’s hundreds of people coming together for one common goal.”
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Christmas in April Charles County volunteers at each location transformed worn-down houses into comfortable homes with significant upgrades to furnishings,
landscape and insulations. Volunteers painted, caulked, cleaned and removed trash, made repairs, did carpentry work, plumbing, electrical work and roofing.
“It’s a hard day but each team can knock these jobs out in a short time,” Sandra Branan, treasurer of the Christmas In April Charles County board of directors.
Christmas in April Charles County made renovations to the Swann residence in White Plains — building stairs at the rear entrance, a ramp and repairing the roof.
“I was told by my insurance agent that the roof was really in bad condition,” said homeowner Carrie Swann. “It has never had a new roof put on it. This is a 1989 trailer and I’ve lived here since 1994. When there are storms there are leaks into my house from the top of my bedroom window to the back of the trailer. During the last storm we had a couple of weeks ago, it leaked even more.”
Swann said her insurance company gave her $1,000 to get her roof fixed and it was no where near the amount needed to repair the damage. Her daughter Tammy Swann knew the family could not afford the repairs so she reached out to Christmas In April for help.
“Knowing that Christmas In April Charles County is doing this is very good,” Tammy said. “It makes me want to cry because I didn’t know how I was going to get this fixed for my mom. She lives by herself so we were worried.”
Swann said it feels like she’s living in a new trailer. She also donated the $1,000 she received from her insurance company to Christmas In April Charles County, as a way of saying thank you to the organization.
“It was meant for the roof to begin with and for me to not donate it would make me feel bad and we believe in karma,” Swann said. “There are some people out there who are willing to do what they can to help you. There’s so much dislike and hate in the world it makes me realize there are good people out there.”
At the Rosier residence in Bel Alton, a team of volunteers, as well as students and faculty from the College of Southern Maryland construction management crew, helped repair the inside of the household.
Earlier in April, the Kiwanis Club of Waldorf helped build a ramp for homeowner Bernard Rosier, 77.
“I feel like I moved into a new house,” Rosier said. “The kitchen had cabinet doors loose and falling off. Now I have a new dishwasher. They also put in flowers and mulch, beautifying the whole location. It looks freshened up.”
Jim McDonald, a Christmas In April Charles County house captain, said he was more than glad to work on the Rosier house. He said the volunteers installed kitchen cabinets, a sink, a new dishwasher, a new bathroom door, a shower enclosure, performed gardening work and they even raised up a commode.
“Having the CSM crew here is a blessing,” McDonald said.
Tony Stout, CSM professor of the construction management crew, said Christmas In April Day gives his students an opportunity to apply skills such as estimating, building materials and methods, and project management — as taught in the construction management program. He said there are always challenges when dealing with older homes but that particular scenario teaches future construction managers how to adjust their methods for those instances.
“I’m learning a lot about the construction field and how to take care of my own home too,” said Igor Kobyzev, a student in the construction management and technology program at CSM. “It’s good to have this experience and knowledge. Anything I don’t know how to do, I am learning today.”
“I like to do stuff like this all the time and I’m grateful to be here helping other people.” said Levin Lucas, a student in the construction management and technology program at CSM. “This is my first time doing this and it’s my second semester at CSM after I got out of the Marine Corps ... I would like to do this more than just once a year.”
Stout said the work they helped do at the Rosier house was a perfect end of the year activity.
“A community college is part of the community and Christmas In April was a great way to give back to the community,” Stout said.
Above, volunteers from Jerry Lewis Roofing Inc. worked on the roof of White Plain resident Carrie Swann on April 29. Below, a team of students and faculty from the College of Southern Maryland construction management crew joined forces to repair the Bel Alton home of Bernard Rosier.
Christmas In April Charles County volunteers built stairs at the back of Carrie Swann’s trailer in White Plains on April 29.